The Lovestruck Tour features four YA authors — Megan Hansen Shepherd (Her Dark Curiosity), Megan Miranda (Fracture), Kasie West (Pivot Point), and Robin Constantine (The Promise of Amazing) — and five bookstores: Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore on Wednesday, February 19 at 7 pm; Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books on Thursday at 7 pm; Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books on Friday at 7 pm; Greenville, South Carolina’s Fiction Addiction on Saturday at 4 pm; and Decatur, Georgia’s Little Shop of Stories on Monday, February 24 at 7 pm. Asheville author Shepherd‘s 2013 debut novel The Madman’s Daughter visited the gothic aftermath of the classic novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, as the titular madman’s daughter, Juliet, visits the island to investigate accusations of his gruesome experiments. Last month, Balzer+Bray published the sequel, Her Dark Curiosity. “Inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this tantalizing sequel to Megan Shepherd’s gothic suspense novel, The Madman’s Daughter, explores the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves. Back in London after her trip to Dr. Moreau’s horrific island, Juliet is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget her father’s legacy. But soon it’s clear that someone–or something–hasn’t forgotten her, as people close to Juliet start falling victim to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes. Has one of her father’s creations also escaped the island? As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer–Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.” Here, she takes the time to answer some questions from Durham author Stephen Messer about her books and the tour. Enjoy!
— Interview by Stephen Messer —
You’re on tour now for Her Dark Curiosity, the second book of The Madman’s Daughter trilogy. The first book was inspired by H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau. What led you to adapt this classic sci/fi story for a modern, YA audience?
My original inspiration for THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER actually came from television, not the classics. I adored the TV show LOST and wanted to write a book set on a mysterious island. I happened to be reading DRACULA at the time, and it reminded me of THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU. So I went back to re-read it for pleasure, and was impressed by how relevant the scientific and moral questions still were. Given that it is a short novella and has no female characters, I thought there might be a way to take the basic story premise and retell it in a totally new way, from a female perspective.
Her Dark Curiosity draws its inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What are some of the challenges of adapting any classic work of science fiction?
Since my books take place in the Victorian timeframe, I didn’t have to worry about adapting the science to incorporate our modern-day technology, but I did have to adapt it to a modern reader’s sensibilities. In JEKYLL & HYDE, Stevenson explains the titular character’s transformation with a “potion” and leaves it at that. Modern readers don’t often settle for such vagueness. They want to know hard science, or at least they want it to sound realistic. So it took a lot of research and creativity to adequately explain how a Jekyll & Hyde transformation might actually happen.
H. G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson — who will inspire the third and final book?
The final book is inspired by Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. I always knew this would be the final book…it’s so iconic and the epitome of gothic fiction. It isn’t a direct retelling, because the events of FRANKENSTEIN occurred about 100 years before the events in the MADMAN’S DAUGHTER series. So it’s rather Frankenstein’s descendants and his science that features into the book. I also chose Frankenstein because its themes fit so well with the previous two classics: the first book dealt with man vs animal, the second with man vs self, and the third with man vs death.
Your tour is called the Lovestruck Authors tour, and you’ll be appearing with a number of other notable sci/fi YA authors at each event. Can you tell us who came up with the name for the tour, and why?
We came up with the name together, because the tour takes place in February, the month of love. We though it was fitting because each of our books has a bit of romance, whether it’s first kisses, or dealing with exes, or tortured romance. Likewise, we all “fell in love” with books and reading in different ways, and we like that element of the name too. Though all of our books are different—some are sci fi, some are contemporary, some are historical—they all deal with the universal YA themes of coming of age and first experiences, and romance often factors into that.
Your new trilogy, The Cage, launches next year, also from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. Give us a taste of what’s coming up next.
THE CAGE is a YA sci-fi told from the perspective of six teenagers who are taken by a superintelligent otherworldly race and placed into a “human zoo” that is a microcosm of Earth, all its various habitats and cultures mashed together. The kids have to use their very different backgrounds to figure out where they are, who they are up against, and if there is a way home. It’s been so fun to write. While it’s quite different from THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER series, there are actually quite a lot of similar themes, from madness, to betrayal, to dark science.
Stephen Messer was born in Maine in the northeastern United States and grew up there and in lots of other places. As a child he was inspired by the desert skies of Arizona, as well as his many trips to the public library. Nowadays, he writes books for young readers. His debut novel, Windblowne (Random House 2010), is a fantasy adventure about a boy who is blown away from his mountain wind-world of treehouses and kites, and his encounters with a mad genius, mechanical hunters, a missing moon, and the secrets of the powerful night winds. The New York Public Library named Windblowne to its Children’s Books 2010 list. The dark and whimsical fantasy The Death of Yorik Mortwell (Random House 2011) features grotesquely delightful illustrations by the masterful Gris Grimly. School Library Journal said of Yorik: “Full-page, macabre illustrations appear throughout. Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, and Neil Gaiman enthusiasts will appreciate this engaging, eccentric adventure.”
He and his wife live in an old house in Durham, North Carolina.